31 October 2013

Race Report: 2013 BT Epic

Where can I even start? BT Epic 2013 was my fifth weekend of racing in a row. And, despite the word "EPIC" in the race title, it would be my shortest race yet, an ironic fact pointed out to me by Joe at Alpine Shop when I stopped by on Friday for a few last-minute essentials (extra Stan's and CO2). I did this race last year with similar emotions: I'm tired, but the BT Epic is simply too much fun to skip. Last year I met the race directors, Scott and Jake, on a training ride and their stoke completely blew me away. This year, they were outdoing themselves again by providing a race-morning PANCAKE FEED, giving away TEN BIKES at the post-race raffle, plus personally hand-clearing and hand-marking 55 miles of singletrack and road. And to top it all off, I found myself sharing a Friday-night cabin with a superior group of jerks and team mates. The weekend hadn't even started, and I knew it was going to be killer.

I kicked it off by driving with David down to Sullivan and meeting Nico, Gino, and LT at the best Mexican place besides Dos Primos...El Nopal! Seriously, if you're driving on I-44, you can't skip it. Get the fajita burrito, mmmm. Then we drove over to Bass where we were greeted by a very kind census officer. It felt a little bit like the night before baby Jesus' birth because it seemed "In those days Caesar Augustus Stephen Bass issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world Midwestern mountain biking communityThis was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria everAnd everyone went to his own town Bass River Resorts to register. So Joseph those jerks also went up from the town trails of Nazareth Castlerock in Galilee Ballwin to Judea, to Bethlehem Berryman, the town of David Steeleville, because he they belonged to the house and line of David BerrymanHe They went there to register with Mary Maria and Emily, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child no, just...noWhile they were there, the time came for the baby to be born race to start, except not before more census-taking could happen to the riders that drove in that morningand she gave birth to her firstborn, a son (no babies, or future Holy Messiahs, were harmed in the writing of this blog)
Start line at Bass! Dwayne and Trevor in the front row!
All bad attempts at religious humor aside, this year Bass seemed very determined to track down and get paid for every single person that crossed over into their property. Hey, that's the Ozarks for you. We spent Friday night chilling in the cabin, piddling with gear of course, and catching up with Rachel from Bushwhacker! Saturday morning arrived right on schedule, to slightly warmer temperatures than last year! Some people in our cabin elected to partake in the pre-race pancake feed but did not live up to their Friday night claims of pancake-eating-prowess. Shame. I didn't eat any pancakes because I had brought my standard oatmeal and coffee, yum. I rode down to the start area and found the rest of my teammates that had driven in that morning - Dwayne, Trevor, Jim, and Adam! Dwayne gave me my very own Team Noah jersey and I was so excited!! As usual with this crew, mojo was just off the charts to have a good day in the woods. These guys always inspire me to ride my hardest and have a good time doing it. I got the rest of my kit ready and rode around Bass dropping off drop bags and saying hi to people. I was wearing my winter lobsters and Rachel greeted me with "you're not racing in those, are you??". Ha! Truthfully, I had been thinking about it but she snapped me back to reality - no lobsters over 30F! Kit corrected, I lined up with Maria in a field of 350 other racers and got ready to start. 

BASS TO BRAZIL (11 miles, 1:11)
Gun goes off and I start getting passed by what feels like the entire field. I haven't put in any warm-up, and my goal today is to keep my PE low over the first 30 miles, so I just spin at my own pace up the gravel climb into the singletrack. I get into the trail with a good group of people, riding decent lines at a decent pace, and we just hum along the first few miles. Sometime after Henpeck Hollow (the first creek crossing) I find TTM and immediately hop on his wheel. That works great for a bit and then I think I crashed him out on a tight switchback. Sorry Jim! We cross through Harmon Spring (second creek crossing) and then are onto the Berryman Trail proper, the north section. Then I get Dan Dougan on my wheel which is awesome! Sometimes I get stressed out by people riding behind me but Dan is so chill and I know he will be cool with whatever crazy braking I throw his way. We make it through the worst downhill section intact (I always think about my Nana here, saying "be careful!"). The rest of the singletrack is great and I am continuing to ride at what feels like a moderate pace, even though I can see my HR well into the 170s. Tapered much? 

BRAZIL TO BERRYMAN (10 miles, 1:07)
I roll across Highway W at Brazil and suddenly there are people everywhere. Brazil Campground/Creek is a minor aid station with I think just water but it seems there are way too many people stopped. I shout out my number to the volunteers and just keep rolling since I don't need anything. This section is probably the hardest section of the Berryman because the trail doesn't switchback much, it just climbs straight up and over several Ozark ridges. I've ridden it a bunch in the past through so I'm able to check off landmarks while I'm trying to keep PE at a reasonable level. About half-way through this section, I ride up a hill and find a bunch of people crowded around a down rider. Oh no! And it's scary when I see that the rider is Mark, a Kuat rider who kept me company for 40 miles of the Dirty Kanza. I can't not stop. It looks like he's having trouble breathing, and I get really worried. There are two people helping him who sound really knowledgeable (later I found out one was his teammate and the other was an anesthesiologist) so I decide to ride ahead to Berryman Campground and inform the volunteers there. I ride with a guy in red shorts for the rest of the section and finally we pass the off-camber rooty turn that signals the final approach to Berryman Campground. I stop at the volunteer table to relay what information I can about Mark - that he's at least three and a half miles back from the campground. There is a woman there who knows him and who is on top of the situation. Relieved, I find my drop bag, ditch my jacket, add a full bottle of water to my bike, and get the heck out of aid station land.

THE SOUTH LOOP (17 miles, 1:46)
The start of the South Loop was where I went off course last year, so I am extra vigilant in spotting the turn. I shouldn't have worried, because Scott and Jake used extra caution tape this year to mark the shallow Leroy onto the OT. I rip down to Highway 8, cross it, cross the creek, and jog through the never-ending sandpit on the other side. It's actually nice to change positions a little bit. On one of the first grinding hills, I spot my teammate Maria trailside, fiddling with her bike. Oh no! I stop and learn that her chain is stuck between the cassette and the rear wheel. Not good. We both tug on it for a few seconds but it's seriously wedged in there. We mess with the wheel a little bit, it gets better but we need some muscle. Oh look, there are several muscle-y mountain bike studs riding by right now! One of them in a Continental kit stops and helps us free the chain! Hoo-ray! Maria gets her shifting sorted and we both take off. I try to hurry since I know she can seriously shred on the singletrack. 

I catch up with a few guys later on down the trail and we ride in a little line for a while. They eventually ride away from me on some of the downhills. Then, on the flats and climbs, I start seeing a curious site: picnickers. No, not random people out picnicking on the OT, but racers that have decided to take a break, and have a snack while they sit on the side of the trail. There are like four guys in a row doing this, but each separated by a few hundred meters so maybe they decided to stop independently. I joke with each of them as I ride by, and the final guy tells me "there's a girl only about 90 seconds in front of you". WHAT!!! He tells me she's in a pink kit. My mind tells me there is no turning back now. Time to race! I know I'm way back in the women's field (guessing, at the very least, there are 6 girls ahead of me: Roxanne, Loreen, Laura, Rachel, Melisa, and now pink girl) but a chase is a chase. I work hard for the last mile or so of singletrack, grab my zip tie, and hang a Lester onto the doubletrack. I use that time to recover just a bit, and by the time I hit the gravel road, I'm ready to throw down. And on one of the first turns, I spot a pink kit up ahead.

GOOOO! I ride really hard, but also start eating everything that's left in my bento box. I know a big effort won't do me any good if I bonk later, so I cram several Oreos, some peanut butter crackers, an Amrita bar, and some e-caps down the hatch. I gain on pink kit girl sloooooowly and finally am ready to make the pass. I am terribly inexperienced in passing etiquette. Do I blow right by her? Sit on her wheel? Say hi? I finally decide to ride strong, but say "good job" too. She does not go with me. Relief! I hit the huge downhill that ends in straight pavement so I let the SegSlayer fly. Last year, I got stuck by myself on the pavement in a nasty headwind, so this year I'm thrilled to see 2 dudes just in front of me. They are in matching 312 jerseys and I ask if I can join their train for the pavement. I even offer to pull my share but they insist on doing all of the work. Sweet! The ride back to Berryman Campground seems so much easier than I remember, and it's all because of me drafting. Thanks, 312 guys! On the climb back up to the campground, I make sure to empty my bottle and CamelBak and make a plan for the aid station: check for news on Mark, ditch the CamelBak, load 2 full bottles on the bike, throw a mini-can of Coke in my pocket, and leave. Once in the campground, everything goes to plan, including extra encouragement from Will Scherff! Thanks!

BERRYMAN TO BASS (20 miles, 2:00)
I check my watch leaving the campground and it says 4:05. I can't exactly remember my last year's split but I think it was around 2 hours. I have a big task in front of me if I want to break 6 hours. I get started on the singletrack and it takes a little bit for me to get back in the flow. This section of Berryman has seen tons of love from GORC, but somehow my head isn't processing fast enough for me to enjoy it. I muscle through the first few miles and then feel it: a cramp. Oh no! I cramped in this section last year when chasing Melisa, too. The e-caps on the gravel must not have been enough. I take a few more, and some water, and focus on spinning easy, or standing, anywhere I can. I don't usually cramp at all, but I don't usually ride at 170+ heart-rate either, so I guess I had this coming. For the next several miles I alternate between feeling decent, feeling sloshy stomach, and feeling crampy. I just try to keep moving through it all, however slowly, and finally once I hit the re-route section (where the trail gets lighter and gravely-er) I am feeling slightly normal. My handling has gone to crap, a fact pointed out to me by the guy on my wheel ("you really don't like right turns, do you?"), but I only crash once. As we finally make the turn off of the Berryman Trail, I realize I am very, very close to the well. No, not the well at Beecher Spring, I passed that a while ago, but the figurative well, one that signals the end of your fitness and the beginning of your heart. I don't get to this place very often. Sure, in adventure racing we see the end of our fitness all the time, but it's usually accompanied by more of a mental effort to control fatigue over several more hours of steady effort than a desire to pour your heart into a 7-mile sprint for the finish. But today, I have that chance to just empty myself. I drink my beloved mini-can of Coke on the climb out of Harmon Spring, rid myself of cramps one last time, point my nose toward Bass and haul. 
Do your best.
It's not fun. I even say that to one of the guys I pass - "NOT"...gasp gasp..."FUN". But then I didn't expect this part of the race to be fun, and I don't want it to be, either. I came to BT Epic looking for a soul-crusher and it's landed here in my lap. Time to hurt, and time to do my best. I've been thinking a lot about riding my best this whole race actually, and in my head there's been a picture of Noah, THE Noah as in Team Noah, with his eyes looking up and to the side. I didn't even know him, but that picture speaks to me, just asking for the best effort I can give. A lot of people ask me what I think about during endurance events. I don't always have a cohesive answer, but today it's clear. 7 miles of Noah, 7 miles of racing back to my teammates who I'm sure have already finished and finished well. The 6 hour mark passes, I won't be under it today, but it's no big deal since I know I've rode my heart out and that's what I came here to do.

Maria, Trevor, Adam, Dwayne, Jim, me! pre-race.
I cross the finish line in an exhausted 6:05 and almost immediately see Dwayne who hasn't even changed out of his kit yet, he's been so busy chatting at the finish line. David and Rachel are there too, so I get an immediate download on their days (David: a smokin-fast 5:11, and Rachel: a detour-riddled-but-still-impressive 5:48). I also learn that there are THREE Team Noah riders inside the Top 10 (Dwayne, Trevor, Jim) and I'm the slowest one in the cabin. Hey, someone's got to bring up the rear, and I'm still completely stoked on my ride. I am really proud of my speedy friends, too. I get cleaned up and then stuff my face with the awesome post-race food: full-on BBQ brisket with baked potatoes!!! Yes! I LOVE baked potatoes after a race! And beer from SBC! And meeting blog readers Mike and Josh! The day really couldn't get any better. Except, then in the awards ceremony, Scott and Jake give away 10 bikes and I win one of them! Seriously, this race has the incredible combo of killer singletrack and awesome party. And really cool turquoise socks. You NEED to sign up next year!

handlebar GoPro: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMvQZdl8xkI
where you at LJ?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpE_WvGT5YA
Tilford: http://stevetilford.com/2013/10/28/berryman-trail-mtb-classic/
strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/91640649
Roxanne: http://www.dirtgirldiary.com/2013/11/2013-berryman-trail-epic-race-report.html
Sasha: http://apabstsmear.blogspot.com/2013/11/bt-epic.html

does anyone have more pictures? post the link at https://www.facebook.com/pages/BT-Epic/163175240368241

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1 comment:

  1. You said it all Emily! Great Race, but then I expect no less from you.